The General’s sword might miss, but his elbow doesn’t. Using his momentum to swing around, he catches me right in the temple. He must be wearing that Mogadorian armor all over his body, because the elbow feels more like a hammer. I stumble to the side, seeing stars. The General slashes at me again, and I just barely manage to lash out with my telekinesis, shoving him backwards. His heels dig up tufts in the grass as he refuses to leave his feet.

Instead of charging back at me, the General levels his sword, another minivortex developing at the blade’s tip. I’m caught out – no shield, no cover – and I know I can’t let that life-draining energy hit me. I brace myself, ready to dive aside.

Before the sword can discharge, the General’s right hand explodes. He roars and drops his blade, holding up his hand to look at the nickel-sized hole through the palm that wasn’t there a second ago.

‘Dad says, “You’re welcome,” ’ Sam’s voice chirps in my ear.

I glance over my shoulder to see our van parked on the access road. Malcolm Goode stands next to the driver-side door, using it for cover as he peers through the scope of his rifle.

‘Interlopers,’ the General growls. Before Malcolm can fire another shot, the General takes off at a sprint, using the trash truck for cover. He’s surprisingly fast considering his bulk and that full suit of armor.

Well, I’d wanted him to run.

I chase after him, thoughts of how he hunted and killed Garde fueling me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a Mog warrior draw a bead on me with his blaster. As he fires, a Chimæra in the shape of a black panther leaps on to his back. The blast sails wide and ends up shearing in half the chair Dr Anu used in his experiments. I know our goal was to keep this Mog technology in tact, but that doesn’t matter to me now. I’m seeing red. The General – so proud of killing Garde. Killing children.

I’m going to write the last chapter in his precious history. Right now.

As I come around the trash truck, I see the General has made it to the basketball courts and stopped. He beckons me onward, waiting for me at center court. I charge in, ignoring the part of me that knows he’s setting me up for some kind of trap. Whatever it is, it won’t stop me.

The General growls something in Mogadorian. It sounds like a command. Under my feet, beneath the asphalt, a generator of some kind vibrates to life.

I feel a static charge as a dome-shaped force field rises up over the basketball court, trapping me with the General. Everything is suddenly very quiet, the noise of the Chimærae mauling the Mogadorians blocked out by the force field.

I take a step away from the nearest wall, sensing the same type of electric jolt that we encountered at the base in West Virginia. I remember how sick I was after that – it took me days to recover – and know that I can’t get too close.

Even as I’m thinking this, an over-eager Chimæra in the shape of a tiger flings herself at the General. The blue energy repulses the pouncing Chimæra, shocks her and leaves her in a convulsing heap on the ground, still very much outside the force field.

‘We used to fight Piken against each other in this place,’ the General muses, waving his hand at the enclosed space. ‘It was a reward for the vatborn. Pity more of them aren’t here to witness today’s contest.’

‘You want some alone time with me, is that it?’ I taunt the General, making sure to put some distance between me and the force field.

‘I want to kill you in peace,’ he replies. ‘With your many friends watching helplessly.’

‘Good luck with that.’

Without hesitation, I charge towards the General, pitching fireballs at him as I go. He absorbs each of them. Huge chunks of his uniform burn away, but I don’t seem to be doing any damage to the armor underneath. Not letting any pain register on his face, the General rushes right for me, like he’s going to barrel into me.

He probably weighs a solid two hundred pounds more than me with that armor. But screw it.

We crash together and the wind goes out of me, but I manage to stay upright. I press my hand, still engulfed by the flames of my Lumen, against the side of the General’s face. He lets out a grunt of pain, but that’s his only reaction to me burning his face, his pale skin searing black and popping. Both of his hands wrap around my throat, big enough that his fingers overlap at the back of my neck.

He squeezes my neck and immediately dark spots form in my vision. I can’t breathe. With the hand not burning the side of the General’s face, I pry at his fingers. It feels like my throat will completely collapse if I let his grip get any tighter.

It’s hard to concentrate with him choking me, but I manage to keep up the intensity of my Lumen while simultaneously using my telekinesis. I maneuver my dagger out from beneath my trouser leg. Without a free hand, I gather as much telekinetic force as I can muster and send the blade lancing towards the General’s heart.

My dagger deflects off his armor. Before I can stab at him again, he tightens his grip on my throat and I lose control of my telekinesis. Feeling faint, it’s all I can do to keep my Lumen burning against the side of his face.

‘Who do you think will die first, boy?’ the General sneers, smoke from his own burned face spilling out of his mouth when he speaks. I try to backpedal, to break away from him, but he puts all his weight down, forcing me to my knees.

Suddenly, a Mogadorian sword is thrust towards my face. Unable to move my head, I can only flinch backwards. The tip of the glowing blade stops just short of my eye. The General’s grip slackens and then drops away entirely. I fall on to my side, gasping for breath, trying to figure out what just happened.